Roberto Trofeo | Profile

Profile

I was born in Kensington. My parents were Italian. My early years involved long periods in Italy. We commuted in a 1934 Packard Twelve, a 1936 Straight-8 Buick and then a 1954 Humber Super Snipe. From 1953-65, I went to a tough ‘Dickensian’ private school in West London – a useful grounding should I ever be imprisoned or tortured. With long stays in Italy, my UK school reports stated that I could have done well had I attended. In 1961 I watched the TV report of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and saw the horrific accident that killed Ferrari driver Wolfgang Von Tripps and 15 spectators. This was the first time I had seen fatalities, and still wonder if this was the moment that I became fascinated by motor racing.

In my early teenage years I wanted to be a weather-man or an airline pilot. My father feared that these professions would take me away from the family, so for further education, I was despatched locally to Twickenham College of Technology and began a 5-year engineering apprenticeship at Fluidrive Engineering Ltd. Aged 16, I had a Lambretta TV175 which I modified for road-racing and rode it accordingly. During my engineering training, motorsport was uppermost in my mind. No one in the family wanted me to race cars. In 1966 when I was 18, I had my first competitive race in a self-modified Ford Anglia. I came second by 0.002seconds in the ‘Production Car Finals’ at an oval racing stadium. I immediately switched to circuit racing and have competed in a variety of cars ever since.

At 22 years of age, with my engineering qualifications, I worked for British Airways (during the amalgamation of BOAC & BEA). In 1971, I chose to leave BA to rescue my mother’s struggling family business – G.Rossi & Sons. I reorganised the restaurant, kitchen, ice-cream factory, fleet of vans, and the vehicle workshop. The workshop became my motorsport base. In 1978, the business closed due to compulsory redevelopment so I set up my own motor business – Rossi Engineering – specialising in classic cars and race car preparation. I was also accepted by the Law Society on the register of Expert Witnesses for associated matters. This partially satisfied the historic connection that my paternal family had with the legal profession – plenty of lawyers and judges. In 1983 I wrote a story for Classic and Sports Car magazine and some club magazines. In the early 1990s, I became a professional freelance motoring journalist, joined the Guild of Motoring Writers and became Chief Test Driver for AutoItalia magazine.

Cars apart, one of my many jobs included designing and setting up a temporary circuit on the old concrete runway at Brooklands during the 1990s. Running unsilenced Formula One cars on a circuit inside London’s M25 motorway is a rare occurrence; but it happened for a few short years during the late 1990s. With the new millennium, I closed my engineering business, qualified as a race instructor, gaining a Class A ARDS instructor licence. I instructed part-time at Thruxton Circuit and also have private clients. In 2015 I gained a tough new qualification launched by the MSA  – a Level 2 Certificate in Performance Motorsport. With experience in motor racing, test driving, race instructing, race coaching, handling consultancy, classic car experience and engineering, I started to write more. I have written on a wide range of motoring subjects. My work involved countless trips to Italy to write about cars, and this evolved into travel stories and writing columns on any subject. I now write for two magazines. I have dual nationality and spend time in London, Italy and Scotland. As for the future, I shall continue with racing, automotive journalism, race coaching, and as a race car handling consultant.

My wife Jane (Watson) is a wily Scot who spent many years fell-running and sailing around Scotland’s Western Isles. She works internationally as an HR Director; and at weekends as pit-crew for the cars that I race. My work as a handling consultant gives me the privilege of racing a variety of great cars. I have two successful sons: Dino Giordanelli – an Environmental Scientist, and Niki Giordanelli – an IT Consultant. Long-term goals are vague. My wife and I describe ourselves as a rudderless ship. One day I hope to finish my first book but our busy lives are getting in the way. In the words of the US Baseball player Mickey Mantle (1931 – 1995), “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”